I was introduced to Waze ($0.00 iTunes) about 2 weeks ago, and it is now the application I use all the time on my iPhone. Waze is a mobile phone application that combines GPS navigation with social networking and crowd sourcing. It is currently available on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and is expanding to more platforms in the near future. I know what you are saying, Navigon, Tom Tom, G-Maps, … Do we really need another GPS app? The answer is YES!
Since the launch of iPhone OS 3.0, I have been waiting for a solid GPS application solution. Since 3.0 was released, we have seen a lot of major GPS players release ported versions of their GPS software over to the iPhone, but with little to no innovation.
I was happy with the Navigon Mobile Navigator ($89.99 iTunes). Navigon has a great product, great turn-by-turn voice prompted navigation that will help you to get from A to B in a quick and optimal way. What they don’t do, is take advantage of the the internet connectivity that the iPhone has to offer. They have announced that traffic is coming soon, but they have not given details of how it will all work. Also, why do I need a massive POI (points of interest) database stored on my phone? This is where Waze really got my attention.
Waze, offers a wide range of functionality and innovation that no other GPS application offers at this time. By far, my favorite functionality of Waze, is Google Local search. I am not a fan of POI databases because they quickly become outdated, they are limited to what is in the database, and they take up lots of space on the device. Waze uses the iPhone’s internet connection to integrate with Google Local search. This is great, because it allows you to find hundreds of thousands of businesses, not just a few thousand plus, not massive databases to download.
Next, is the Waze crowd sourcing functionality which is where Waze really shines. Waze is GPS software that learns from its users. If you are on a road that averages 80 mph but you are going 30mph, Waze will ask you if you are in traffic, then will report that information to other Waze users and will track your average speed marking it on the map for everyone to see. Waze also allows you to report different items like Police, Traffic, Accidents, Hazards, Speed Camera’s, and other. When reported, these items are flagged on other people’s maps, and they will be notified when approaching.
“Just last night, I was heading down I-75/I-85 when Waze told me I was approaching a location where a police officer was reported to have a speed trap setup. Well, I went around the next corner, and sure enough, there was a police officer with someone pulled over. When I arrived at the location of the Police officer, Waze asked me if he was still there, or if he was not. Overall, the system worked great!”
The final item I want to go into, is how Waze learns as it is used. Waze uses open source maps, which means you can go on to the website and edit the maps if they are in accurate. If you find a road that has not been discovered you just click the new road button on the iPhone app, and it will learn the road as you drive it, gathering information like direction, average speed, type of road, … Then it relays that information back to Waze for approval and fine tuning. I added a new road to the map, and with in 2 days, is was on the map for everyone to see. As you use Waze, you gather munchie points (like Pacman,) which are points you get for helping Waze learn new and old roads. These points as well as other items allow you to be ranked for contributing to Waze.
Waze offers a couple of other great social networking and social crowd sourcing options that I wont go into great detail about. You can learn more about these features at Waze.com.
Well, Waze is not perfect, it is still early in development so it has some bugs, and is limited in general GPS functionality. The first negative, is a early adopting negative, Waze is not great at routes yet, it has sent me in some pretty crazy routes, but as I said earlier, Waze learns. If Waze takes me in a weird route, I will just drive the route I want then Waze will learn that route and will consider it based on speed and traffic in the future. Because Waze learns, I find myself just having Waze open all the time when I drive, even if I know where I am going, so it will learn and better itself.
The second negative of Waze is that it does not offer a 3D view, it is all 2D top down maps. This is not a horrible thing, because the maps are beautiful, and easy to follow, but I have become use to Navigon’s 3D view and lane assist, so it is something I would like to see added in the near future.
The final negative I want to discuss, is the lack of text to speech. When I approach a turn, Waze says “Turn Left” I would like it to say “Turn Left onto Peachtree Road NE.” This seems like a hazard to me. GPS apps should be created so users don’t have to constantly look down at the phone. Again, this is not a terrible thing, but it is something they should defiantly add in the near future.
Waze is a application that will only get better as it gets more popular. It is not perfect, but I strongly recommend everyone goes and get’s it. Why spend $90 or $100 on a GPS application that is very limited with no internet functionality. Waze offers some exciting innovation that could change the way GPS application work in the future. Also, Waze is FREE, so give it a try, I am sure you will be impressed.